Mamuk’a was born and raised in Khakhmat’i (2050 meters), a highland village in Khevsureti that sits just beneath the Bear Cross Pass. The village is famous throughout eastern Georgia for being home to Khakhmat’i Cross, the shrine devoted to the divine couple Giorgi of the Stream and Samdzimari.
During harder times in Georgia, Mamuk’a lost contact with his brother in Russia, a difficult separation that lasted decades. When his brother returned and the two were finally reunited, he gifted Mamuk’a with a balalaika.1
Today, when he is not out working with his cows, Mamuk’a plays ancient Khevsur motives on the instrument, as well as sings more contemporary poetry. His favorites are the poems of Vazha-Pshavela.2
1A Russian folk string instrument that made its way into the northeastern highlands of Georgia. It has three strings, a triangular body, and is tuned the same as the classical panduri. Read more about the balalaika here.
2Luka Razikashvili (1861-1916) was one of Georgia’s most famous poets and writers. He wrote under the pen name Vazha-Pshavela, which literally means ''son from Pshavi.'' He was born and raised in the village of Chargali where a museum for him, opened in 1961, exists today.